Forestry board moves ahead with controversial habitat conservation plan for state forests

The state Board of Forestry on Tuesday directed the Oregon Department of Forestry to finalize a so-called habitat conservation plan for the 730,000 acres of state forests it manages and enter into a federal consultation process to get the plan approved.

The controversial plan would have the state make firm environmental protections on public forests, setting aside about half the land base as conservation areas where intensive logging would no longer take place for a period of 70 years. If approved by federal agencies and ratified by the board, the plan would shield the state from lawsuits under the endangered species act if logging in the other areas killed or harmed the habitat of existing listed species or those that may be listed in the future.

The agency took three years to develop the draft plan. If it’s finalized this spring and submitted to the feds, it likely wouldn’t receive final approval until 2022, at which point its implementation would be subject to another vote by the state board.